Finally!! My First Full Day Back in Castellammare del Golfo

I slept for 12 hours & finally felt human again. I got up, showered & dressed just in time as cousin Bernardo rang the bell to say we were going to visit his Aunt / my cousin Maria. I was thrilled!!!!!!! 

I know this is hard to understand, but when we started walking the streets of Castellammare del Golfo, I felt, as I did 16 years ago, that I was finally home again!!  Only 2 other people understand this feeling.

Along the way, Bernardo pointed out houses where various family members had lived over the decades. When we arrived at Maria’s, the house was the same, including 2 flights up to the main living area. 16 years after my last visit and Maria looked wonderful!!

Cousin Maria
Cousin Maria

She still had the flowers I sent the previous week, along with my note saying that I would be in town. We had “café’ normale” and visited for a short time. Maria was very gracious as I had a standing invitation for lunch during my stay.

As we continued our walk, Bernardo spoke to everyone along the way. I was always introduced this way: ”Cugina Celia dall’America, che di parenti hanno vissuto qui. Lei si sta occupando l’albero genealogico. E oh, lei non parla italiano” [Cousin Celia from America, who’s family lived here. She is researching the family tree. And oh, she does not speak Italian]. I heard this hundreds of times!!  Funny, but many people wanted to speak to me trying out their knowledge of English.  [More on this later.]

During our walk I met the family (Aunt Nina & Mama) of Vito SanFilippo, a childhood friend of Bernardo’s who lives near me in Florida. Another gracious invitation for lunch during my stay.

We walked back to the B&B and Felice walked me to the Café Garibaldi. He introduced me to Vito, the owner, so I could go there in the morning to have my breakfast. Yes, I’m staying at a B&B but the breakfast “B” is off the premises.

Cafe Garibaldi for breakfast, meeting fellow travelers & meeting all the locals.

Bernardo & I continued our walk. This time we walked to his home so I could meet his wife Vincenza. I was invited back for lunch. We continued our walking tour all around town. Back to Bernardo’s house for lunch where I also met his youngest son Alessandro (a young man of few words).  Vincenza made a wonderful lunch – pasta with white broccoli & sausage with oven-roasted potatoes.  This was my main meal for the day, as there was no way I could sit down & have my “normal” American dinner.

We continued our walking tour the rest of the afternoon until around 7pm when Bernardo walked me back to the B&B. I was exhausted but what a wonderful 1st day in Castellammare del Golfo!!!

The next day, I got up around 6am, showered, got dressed & walked up to the Café Garibaldi for my “café normale” (espresso), a cornetto (chocolate) & a glass of ice water (normal with the high-test espresso). I sat outside and watched the parade of people, shops opening & people looking at me (a stranger in town).  I had to be back by 10am as Bernardo & I could go to the car rental shop. When I arrived at the B&B, Felice and his wife, my cousin, Maria Elena were waiting. We drove to the rental place on the other side of town.

 At last, Bernardo & I took off in the car & went to the Cala Marina to watch the fishing boats come in & the folks line up to buy the fresh fish. What a wonderful experience!
Waiting for the daily fishing catch at the Harbour
Waiting for the daily fishing catch at the Harbour

Bernardo, of course, saw many people that he knew & talked & talked.  More espresso. I met a couple from California. Lisa, the wife, tells me that they live here fulltime & her husband travels back & forth to CA to check on his business.

Afterwards, we drove to the cemetery. We visited the graves that he knew. I took photos this time (which I didn’t do 16 years ago).  But no matter where we looked, both above ground & in the underground catacombs, we couldn’t find our great-grandfather’s grave. We went to the office & Maurizio (the manager) had no record of him.  I showed him my notes from my last visit but no record was found. A question for cousin Maria.

More next time!

Time to Meet Cousins in Rome

Yesterday Laurie & I took the tours of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel. We also went to the Trevi Fountain and the Roman Forum.  All the places Laurie said she wanted see. We also went to every espresso bar and many cafes to sample all the delicious food.

Trevi Fountain in Rome
Trevi Fountain in Rome

So, today we’re getting ready to take a cab to the train station to meet Alfonso. We’re excited and nervous at the same time. The young hotel concierge just told us that there is yet another train strike but “no problem getting a cab”.

We arrived at the designated station and shortly thereafter we were approached by a gentleman identifying himself as Alfonso, son-in-law of cousin Maria & accidental interpreter for the day. Alfonso is a Professor who teaches English!!!  Introductions were made – cousin Maria (sister to Lorenzo in Sicily & another 1st cousin to Dad), Giuseppe (husband of Maria), cousin Vera (daughter of Maria & Giuseppe & wife of Alfonso). We spent the day in a whirlwind!! We spent time in the town of Castel Gandolfo for sightseeing, lunch and had a wonderful time.

We also spent time at the home of Giuseppe & Maria. Maria was very excited to show us her photo album.  As we were perusing it, we saw a very familiar Polaroid photo – Laurie’s graduation from grammar school with me standing in front of her at the house in Yonkers!!! I remember seeing the photo at my parents’ house. So now we were curious as to how our photo made its way to Rome. Maria told us that SaSa (Grandma Milano) always sent photos of the family. I remember Grandma always had Daddy take extra photos but we thought maybe it was “just in case they didn’t develop correctly”. But the Polariod photos were the best as you could watch them develop right there!! But now we know better. Grandma was sending them to the family in Italy!!!!!  Who knew??

Laurie's grammar school graduation - with Grandma & Grandpa Milano
Laurie’s grammar school graduation – with Grandma & Grandpa Milano

No problem, but there was another reason: For all of my life Laurie kept telling me was that she had a Godchild in Sicily. Yeah, right!! I could never figure it out, since she never traveled there. So, over the years, when I inquired she told me that Grandma Milano said that if little Mariuccia came to visit us in New York, Laurie would be her hostess/sponsor “la madrina”. So Grandma was sending photos to Maria so she would know about Laurie’s life.

So now 50 years later, Laurie has finally met little Mariuccia!! She couldn’t believe it!!  She was ecstatic!!  Unreal!! I was very happy, as now the mystery of “little Mariuccia” had been solved. A great way to end a very beautiful day.

Maria & Laurie finally meet in Rome!!
Maria & Laurie finally meet in Rome!!

Another day in Rome then off to Sicily!!!

A Funny Thing Happened at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome!

I told my sister to select her bed, get freshened up and then we had things to do. She balked as her head was still spinning with all the sights and sounds coming from the Rome airport. She was eyeing the bed and giving me the evil-eye at the same time.

Two things were needed: First, strong coffee and then I wanted to speak with the concierge about how to obtain tickets for the St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel tours. These were the places Laurie said she wanted see.

St. Peter's Square - Preparing for 2000 celebration.
St. Peter’s Square – Preparing for 2000 celebration.

Ok, we’re out the door and on our way to the Espresso Bar. You’ve got to love the Romans – cars & scooters are lined up & running while folks run in, gulp down a shot of espresso & then are out the door!!

We found the ticket office and purchased tickets for the next morning’s Vatican tour. Laurie finally understood that, as a tourist, you cannot procrastinate while in Rome. You need to have your plans set and then you can pace yourself. We walked around the city and arrived at the Colosseum!!  Unbelievable!!

Laurie in the Colosseum in Rome
Laurie in the Colosseum in Rome

After our morning excursion, we head back to the hotel to rest. As soon as we entered our room, the phone rang. We just looked at each other, as only 3 people knew we were in Rome – my Vito, my niece Lori and our cousin Lorenzo in Castellammare del Golfo.

I answered the phone and a lady was speaking to me in that very fast-paced Italian. I said “Signora, no parlo Italiano”. She hung up. A few minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was a gentleman named Alfonso who was speaking English and was explaining to me that the Signora who called was the sister of Lorenzo in Sicily!!! She wanted to meet us and so arrangements were made.

When the call ended, Laurie just looked at me and asked what just happened. I told her that we will be meeting Lorenzo’s sister, Signora Maria and her family the day after tomorrow.

Little did we know what other surprises awaited us!!!!